MEET A CaST MEMBER: VICKI ZIMMERMAN

If you've been to Chicago Street Theatre recently, Vicki Zimmerman is probably a familiar face. At present, she is the highly valued Stage Manager for Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge. In addition to her work during the run of the show, she was also at the theatre day and night preparing and decorating the extremely detailed set for the play.
 
Zimmerman, a graduate of Indiana University who is originally from "El Passo, Texas via Michigan," describes herself as a "detail Person." Here favorite aspect of working on "View" was having the ability to create detailed areas on the set that said so much about the characters who inhabited those spaces. She added, "If you get down here and see this show, you'll realize that you can be part of a play in so many different ways."
 
Vicki became involved with the theatre nearly six years ago with Chicago Street's 2007 production of Andrew Lippa's Wild Party through Scott MacDonald, a college friend, who was in the musical and recommended her as stage manager. Having studied technical theatre while in college, she quickly became involved at CST working on sets and volunteering for various events. She said that what drew her to working at Chicago Street Theatre was the quality of theatre.  Since joining the group she has been part of twelve productions where she says she has had the "opportunity to do anything and everything."
 
In addition to her recent work on the set for A View from the Bridge, she is also proud to have "practiced some amateur taxidermy" on last season's production of The Goat or Who is Sylvia? and to have designed the lights for The Pillowman. Although she has appeared on stage, she says that she is generally attracted to the many artistic challenges that can be a part of any show. Vicki said that if there's one thing everyone should know about her it's "If I'm here, I'm here to work."

We are thankful to have Vicki as a party of the CST family!

It's all in the Details

I've been peeking in on tech week rehearsals for A View from the Bridge. If first impressions are any indication (and, I believe they are), then we have quite an incredible show about to open on the mainstage.  The first thing that strikes you when you walk in is the incredibly detailed period set. From the wallpaper and woodwork to the props and furniture, great care has been taken to make sure the world of the play is conveyed from the moment the audience is ushered to their seats.  

I debated revealing the set on the blog with pictures. There is a magic that happens when you first enter the theatre and I don't want to spoil it.  Instead, I've photographed some of the incredible details just to give you a small taste of the fantastic scenic design.  Enjoy!

-posted by Traci Brant, Artistic Chair


 

Director Karl Berner on "View"

What drew you to A View from the Bridge? 

After having directed two comedies as my first projects, I was decidedly on the lookout for a drama that gripped me. Additionally, Justin and I usually speak about shows we like, I had to share this work with him after reading it. We had discussed other projects, but this piece we agreed on proceeding with almost immediately.

Arthur Miller is obviously one of the greatest playwrights of the 20th Century, what makes his storytelling so powerful? 

Arthur Miller, like many playwrights who find major success, has the gifted ability to literally put conversationalism on paper. Outside of A View From The Bridge, the other glaring example of his would be Death of A Salesman. It's a challenge for actors to really get a sense of the conversation, dynamic and tone of a scene, but when it's performed accurately, the enitre life of the story is already written. The challenge is right there in black and white. That is part of his brilliance as a playwright.

What makes this particular story an American classic?  

It's a truly American story based on an actual life occurrence. It has everything the pursuit of the "American Dream" offers: success and reward for honest work and a chance for happiess, but with cautious sirens about the perils of taking too much, of holding on to what may not rightfully be yours.

What does A View from the Bridge have to say about issues of immigration that are still relevant today? 

Regardless of the current jobs situation and economic climate America currently faces, it still does represent a chance for a better life to may who come here. Adapting to one's new environment is also a timeless experience for anyone.

What does the play have to say about families and relationships?  

Through the contrast of Eddie, the protagonist, and the immigrant, Marco, we see a idealistic clash as to what makes family important, and how the definition of honor and respect differ between these two men. While one tends to focus on power and possession, the other views family as a village of virtuous individuals all worthy of respect, no matter what.

The cast features quite a few experienced CST actors. What have they brought to this production?  

We do have some seasoned veterans, and they have really helped to lead by example for those who are younger in their craft as actors. It has been a learning experience for everyone, and it's a joy to watch the actors not only make discoveries together, but to mutually enjoy them and build on them.

Tell me a little bit about the crew and technical aspects of the show.  

We have an unbelievable Jill-of-all-trades in Vicki Zimmerman. I can say, certainly, we would not be as far along without her. She has an amazing work ethic and attention to detail in every aspect of live theatre. Our set was designed by Jeff DeBoer, who Justin and I have both worked with in the past and who has a keen sense of how to use a given space based upon a director's needs. Auriel Felsecker is our youngest lighting designer.  After apprenticing under Marcia Burbage, she is now creating her own unique designs. Marsha Gerhardt--who is back with us after a long hiatus--has had some great vision as far as costumes; a period piece requires quite a bit of detail, as does taking a character's class standing into consideration. Costumes tell a story in and of themselves.

What do you hope audiences take away from the show?  

I'm hoping--especially if they've never seen A View From The Bridge--that we've done justice to Arthur Miller's work, and that they'll enjoy this grim, hard-hitting piece of 1950s, east-coast Americana.

What makes Chicago Street Theatre such a unique venue for theater in Northwest Indiana?  

What makes Chicago Street theatre unique is their unwavering tendency toward taking risks for the chance of creating new artistic statements. Providing directors, actors and designers alike with chances to explore and create live art from abstract, off the beaten path or even controversial works is an avenue not often found in small-town community theatre settings.

A Very Late Night

When an audience comes into any theatre to see a stage play, first impressions are everything.
 
As I am sure many of our audience members do, the first thing I do after I get to my seat (and after opening my Peanut Butter M&Ms) is to check out the set on stage. Study it. What is going on with it?  What story is the SET already telling me before the lights even go down and the cast takes the stage?  To me, the set is the "first character" in any play.
 
For our next production, A View from the Bridge by Arthur Miller, the directors, cast and crew have been working days and NIGHTS in hopes that your first impression is molto bella (Italian: very beautiful). When I say days and NIGHTS, I mean LATE nights. The past week, various members of the View team have stayed at the theatre until as late as 3:30 in the morning working on the set. Last night (actually Sunday morning), I left the theatre at 3 am and our two dedicated directors, Karl Berner and Justin Treasure, were still there working on set details.  "Dio li benedica", both of them.

Why work so hard and long on the set? To bring to life our "first character."  To create a set that will transport you to the small neighborhood of Red Hook in Brooklyn NY in the late 1950's.

 Why all the Italian references?  Well, the characters in View are all of Italian decent, some of them fresh off the boat! So please, come see our set, stay for the show, and enjoy little bit of Italy.
Grazie e arrivederci,
Jim Henry
Mr. Alfieri in A View from the Bridge

A Peak at View from the Bridge Rehearsal

Last night I snuck into the CST mainstage to watch rehearsal for A View from the Bridge and it was truly thrilling. Arthur Miller is without a doubt one of America's greatest playwrights, and sitting there watching his words come to life reminded me of just how prolific and beautiful they are.  

Directors Karl Berner and Justin Treasure have assembled an asolutely stellar cast for this very difficult piece including

  • John Larrabee as Eddie Carbone, a longshorman 
  • Heather Chaddock as Catherine, the niece of Eddie and Beatrice
  • Dona Henry as Beatrice, wife of Eddie and aunt of Catherine
  • Timothy Gleason as Marco, cousin of Beatrice
  • Josh Eggleston as Rodolpho, Beatrice's cousin from Italy
  • Jim Henry as Alfieri, an Italian-American lawyer
  • Rodney Thornton as Louis, a longshoreman and friend of Eddie's
  • Jim Drader as Tony, a friend of the Carbones, and 1st Immigration Officer 
  • T.J. Aubuchon as Mike, a longshoreman and friend of Eddie's, and 2nd Immigration Officer
  • Mark McColley as Mr. Lipari, a butcher who lives upstairs from the Carbone's
  • Patricia Schulz as Mrs. Lipari, the upstairs neighbor of the Carbone's

They definitely hit a home run when they assembled this group... and they are working their tails off! Between the confrontations, emotional intensity, fight scenes, and Italian accents, these actors have their work cut out for them.  If this rehearsal was any indication, they're up to the task.

The first scene I watched began with actor Jim Henry asking director Justin Treasure if he could "try something a little different."  The rehearsal definetely had a positive tone of collaboration and mutual respect.  I won't give away too much as I saw a couple of scenes at the end of Act II and don't want to spoil it for those who have not had the pleasure of reading or seeing this moving play.  Suffice to say, director Justin Treasure was pleased with their progress by the end of rehearsal.  During their note session, he reminded the actors to keep up their intensity, to find even more emotion, to take their time at some points and to proceed with urgency during others. Justin's directing style is almost like that of a therapist; he asks the actors questions to make them think and arrive at their own character motivation. It was really a pleasure to watch. Perhaps I'll sneak in again later this week and report back. 

posted by Artistic Chair Traci Brant

Setting A View From the Bridge

Directors Karl Berner and Justin Treasure face a mammoth task in creating the set for CST's upcoming production of A View From the Bridge.  The play is set in the 1950s in Red Hook, "the slum that faces the bay on the seaward side of Brooklyn Bridge ... The gullet of New York."  While the Carbones' living and dining room is the main focus of the action, the street/neighborhood outside must also be represented.  To give you a glimpse into their dilemma, here's how the setting is described at the top of Act One:

The street and house front of a tenemant building.  The front is skeletal entirely. The main acting area is the living room-dining room of Eddie's apartment. It is a worker's flat, clean, sparse, homely. There is a rocker down front; a round dining table at centre, with chairs; and a portable phonograph.

At back are a bedroom door and an opening to the kitchen.

At the right, forestage, a desk.

There is also a telephone booth. This is not used until the last scenes, so it may be covered or left in view.

A stairway leads up to the apartment, and then farther up to the next storey.

Ramps, representing the street, run upstage and off to the right and left.

Wow. That is incredibly ambitious for CST's 34 x 19 foot black-box mainstage.  I've been peaking in on the the build and it's been challenging. I have great respect for the passion and attention to detail the directors are bringing to the process and I think their careful decision-making and a lot of volunteer muscle are going to result in a gorgeous set that brings our audiences into the world of the play.

Just for fun, take a look at some of the widely varied set designs of other theatre's that have produced A View From the Bridge.

posted by Artistic Chair Traci Brant 

Cast Lists Announced

Chicago Street Theatre held its Spring/Summer 2013 open auditions last weekend.  We were thrilled by the incredible number of talented actors/actresses who came out to read. As is often the case, we had more talented artists than we had roles to fill. Thank you so much for making the audition a huge sucess.  We are pleased to announce the cast lists for the remaining productions in our 2012/13 season.

The Graduate

Dean Perrine as Benjamin Braddock

Glenn Silver as Mr. Braddock

Danielle Karczewski as Mrs. Braddock

Chuck Gessert as Mr. Robinson

Barbara Malangoni as Mrs. Robinson

Megan Lothamer as Elaine Robinson

Lynette Kucharski as the Stripper

Kimberly Meyne as the Waitress

Jeff Schultz as the Hotel clerk and the Priest

Jim Drader as the Psychiatrist

Patricia Schulz as the Receptionist 

Ensemble: Rodney Thornton, Mary Jo Nuland, Kirby Thomas


A Picasso

Maggie Reister-Walters as Miss Fischer

Larry Hinken as Pablo Picasso


A View from the Bridge

John Larrabee as Eddie Carbone, a longshorman

Heather Chaddock as Catherine, the niece of Eddie and Beatrice

Dona Henry as Beatrice, wife of Eddie and aunt of Catherine

Timothy Gleason as Marco, cousin of Beatrice

Josh Eggleston as Rodolpho, Beatrice's cousin from Italy

Jim Henry as Alfieri, an Italian-American lawyer

T.J. Aubuchon as Mike, a longshoreman and friend of Eddie's, and 2nd Immigration Officer

Rodney Thornton as Louis, a longshoreman and friend of Eddie's

Jim Drader as Tony, a friend of the Carbones, and 1st Immigration Officer 

Mark McColley as Mr. Lipari, a butcher who lives upstairs from the Carbone's

Patricia Schulz as Mrs. Lipari, the upstairs neighbor of the Carbone's


The Comedy of Errors

Eric Brant as Actor 1: The Twin Brothers, Antipholos of Syracuse & Antipholus of Ephesus

Braden Cleary as Actor 2: The Twin Servants, Dromio of Syracuse & Dromio of Ephesus

Patricia Bird as Actor 3: Adriana, Antipholos of Ephesus' Wife, the Boatswain, and an Angry Merchantess.

Peyton Daily as Actor 4: Luciana, (Adriana's Sister), Luce, (the kitchen wench who is married to Dromio of Ephesus), the Towncrier and The Executioner.

Grant Fitch as Actor 5: roles TBA

Mark Baer as Actor 6: roles TBA

Dan Matern as Actor 7: roles TBA

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